Friday, March 30, 2007

"The Word made flesh dwelt among us"

Mike Broadway over at Earth as it is in Heaven has just started a series of blogs on the principles of Christian Community development (CCD). I first met Mike, a theology and ethics professor at Shaw University Divinity School, at a conference about three years ago. At that time, Estela and I were struggling to develop a strategy for ministry to the decaying inner-city areas of Nassau. Mike suggested that I read the works of CCD pioneer John Perkins, which I began to do immediately upon my return home from the conference. That turned out to be a major turning point for us and our ministry, a journey that I eventually hope to document on this blog.

The first and foundational principle of Christian community development is relocation, which Mike describes as follows:
As a principle of incarnational ministry, relocation insists that a calling to serve people is a calling to live among them. The Gospel of John says that the Word Made Flesh dwelt ("tabernacled," pitched a tent) among us. I like to say it this way: the Word became flesh and moved in next door. Jesus came to all the world, but he did so in one place, among one people. Lacking his own home, perhaps we should say that the Word became flesh and slept on a pallette in our spare room.
Having defined what relocation means, Mike goes on to explain why it is important:

Why is relocation important? It is not merely an answer to WWJD. It is also built on sociological observation. It has to do with race and class analysis. It has to do with our social psychology. We tend to act on things that directly affect us. If there is a pothole in the street near your driveway, you are the one who is most likely to raise some noise to try to get it fixed. If there are dozens of potholes in another neighborhood where you do not live and where you never drive, it is very unlikely that you will even be aware of them. You are almost guaranteed not to become an activist over those potholes. Our residence affects what problems drive us to act.
I was especially challenged by Mike's description of the implications of relocation for our churches, in general, and pastoral leadership, in particular.

If I am a pastor of a church but I don't live in the neighborhood where the church's building stands and where the church meetings occur, then I am mostly a visitor to the neighborhood. I may spend many hours in the building, working in an office, having meetings with others who drive to the church from across town to attend meetings, and strategizing about the church's work. At key times of the week, I lead and participate in large gatherings for worship, study, and fellowship, and after two or three hours I lock up and go home. If I think about the neighborhood, it may be focused on how the adjoining properties could become part of a larger church plant, or about how the look of the neighborhood buildings and people might make people nervous about attending the church.
Sounds quite a bit like our situation here in Nassau, huh?

If this piece got you thinking, you might want to check the rest of it out here.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oversimplifying the history of abolition?

Today's issue of Ethics Daily has run an article that helps us to look at the history of slavery and abolition in a more nuanced way.

Close reading of history should make us wary of the broad-brush approach, in which an over-simplified reading of the past shapes our understanding of the present. For instance, there is a strong case for saying that Britain should just apologize for the trade, rather than patting itself on the back for abolishing it. Put that way, it's like a mugger wanting to take credit for stopping hitting his victim.

But what does "Britain" mean? Conditions on the plantations of the Caribbean or the Americas were little different in degree from those in some of Britain's burgeoning factories and mines. Was it in Jamaica or Manchester that small children had their ears nailed to tables for minor breaches of discipline? Manchester, actually. So are the descendants of these white, British slaves responsible for Britain's slave trade?

We are entitled to both our heroes and our villains, but we have a responsibility to see the issues as clearly as we can.
Click here to read the rest of the article.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Constitutional Rights of Haitian Bahamians

Monday's edition of the Freeport News has a helpful story that explains the constitutional rights of Bahamian-born Haitians who wish to acquire Bahamian citizenship. Basically, anyone born in the Bahamas (not just Haitian-Bahamians) to non-Bahamian parents is eligible to apply for Bahamian citizenship within a year of their eighteenth birthday. Upon submitting the proper application materials, according to the law, they should be granted Bahamian citizenship in a timely fashion.

For the most part, this sounds like a reasonable policy on paper. In practice, however, it rarely happens that way. Many young Haitian-Bahamians wait years for their applications to be processed, if they get processed at all. In the meantime, they remain second-class citizens in their country of birth. If they decide to pursue university studies, they must pay the foreign tuition rate at College of the Bahamas and they are unable to apply for a passport to pursue studies abroad.

In the past year, at least two groups of Haitian-Bahamians have formed here in Nassau whose agenda is to address issues such as these. Another group, the Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN), has recently been formed as well. Unlike the other two groups, BHRN is primarily made up of Bahamians who are concerned about righting the injustices their country has inflicted upon Haitians and Bahamians of Haitian descent. In the days and weeks ahead, I hope to begin documenting the work of these groups on this blog.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Learning from the Lives of Haitian Women

Here's the scoop on a new movie that has just been released:

Poto Mitan is a story of struggle, courage, resistance, and democracy. Through powerful, compelling stories/lives of five courageous Haitian women, Poto Mitan will inspire and educate solidarity, global justice, and women's activists around the world and challenge them to think critically about their own work. Each woman's life history will shed light on a particular aspect of the countrys current crisis, weaving Haitis story within her own, something that is often missed by the mainstream and even alternative media.

The image of Haiti that comes out of both mainstream and alternative media is almost entirely negative: a seemingly endless stream of dire poverty, protracted violence, and extreme fallout from natural disasters. While it is true that Haiti is a society that is poor and divided, there are important structural causes of this poverty and division. Poto Mitan gives viewers not familiar with Haiti a humanizing historical context and lived understanding of the people who are confronting these structural imbalances.

Poto Mitan contributes the much needed understanding of the world economy. Our approach is to depict how inequalities based on social and national differences and gender roles intersect and are experienced on the ground. By sharing the lives - living and working conditions, life histories, and activism - of five everyday Haitians, we give the world economy a human face. Most people do not think about where their clothing is made, and how the people who make it live and work. An early site for export-processing zones, often called maquiladoras, Haiti is a good place to examine this global phenomenon, highlighting fluctuations within the export-oriented textile industry.

Poto Mitan is a tool to inspire, educate, and empower solidarity activists. By seeing the daily struggles of local women workers, seeing that they are not merely victims but organized activists, this film will inspire people in the North to get involved.
Read more about the women featured in Poto Mitan here or view the fifteen-minute trailer here. Unfortunately, the film is not yet available for purchase, but you can check here to see if a screening is being held in your area.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Not Showing in a Theater Near You: Why Amazing Grace hasn't come to the Caribbean

Thanks to the persistant detective work of Nicolette Bethel, we finally have an answer as to why Galleria Cinemas is NOT showing Amazing Grace in the Bahamas, at least not for now. Apparently, the movie is in limited release--having opened in the U.S. on February 23rd and, now, slated to begin showing today, March 23rd, in the U.K. and Ireland. In the meantime, Galleria Cinemas' distributor has agreed to let them know when, or if, the film is available to be shown locally.

The irony here is that even though the people of the Bahamas, along with their Caribbean neighbors, are the primary beneficiaries of the abolition of the slave trade, they will not have the opportunity to see the film in conjuction with this weekend's bicentennial observances. Bethel elaborates on this irony:

If the film is not intended to be released in the Caribbean at the time of the Bicentenary of the Abolition, then that is a significant lapse of judgement of the filmmakers and the studio. There is really very little to be gained, either for history or for Christianity itself, to show the film in the homes of the people who perpetrated the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and not to do so in the homes of the societies that were created by that very trade.

Something is askew.
Yes, something is indeed askew! But given the nature of the pre-film publicity, we should not really be surprised. Nearly a month ago, I observed that:

In the United States and Great Britain, for example, many well-meaning Christians are using the bicentennial of abolition [and the publicity surrounding the release of the film Amazing Grace] to raise awareness of and generate support for campaigns against modern day forms of slavery such as child labor, prostitution, and human trafficking. While I applaud these important efforts, I am concerned that they have largely obscured the legacy of slavery that still persists for Bahamian and Caribbean descendants of the liberated Africans and slaves who originally benefited from abolition.
While I don't believe that any of these oversights are intentional, let alone sinister, I do believe they tell us a lot about the worldview of the of the folks who are distributing and promoting the film. Basically, theirs is a worldview that--consciously or subconsciously--assumes that the evils of slavery came to and end with the abolition of the slave trade and, subsequently, emancipation. It is also a worldview that recognizes that slavery--understood as physical bondage--continues to exist in the world today and, more importantly, it is a worldview rooted in a moral passion to fight this injustice. Hence, they have siezed upon an inspirational event in history and held it up as a model to emulate as they seek to abolish modern day forms of slavery.

For the most part, this is a good thing. The problem, however, is that such a worldview ignores the fact that while abolition and emancipation brought an end to the physical bondage of Caribbean slavery, they did not come anywhere close to bringing an end to the economic systems that allowed and continue to allow one group of people to unfairly benefit from the labor of another (for more on this topic see my post on the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade). More critically, this worldview fails to acknowledge that the Caribbean descendents of liberated Africans and slaves are still struggling today with injustices perpetuated by the descendents of former slave traders and slave owners.

One reason for this, perhaps, is that it is easier to fight against injustices, such as human trafficking or prostitution, in which one is not directly involved. But for those of us--like myself--who are the descendents of countries who profited from the slave trade, it is much more difficult to join Caribbean peoples in their modern day struggle for full emancipation because to do so is to admit that we are still beneficiaries of the modern day economic systems which keep them enslaved.

Even two-hundred years after the fact, there a great need for reconciliation between the countries who benefited from the slave trade and those that were created by the slave trade. The failure of Amazing Grace's promoters to include the Caribbean in their efforts is not the problem so much as a symptom of something much more serious, our failure to recognize that while abolition and emancipation were important steps in the right direction toward mutual reconciliation, they were just the beginning of the journey, not the end.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nicolette Bethel on Abolition of the Slave Trade

Back in December, Nicolette Bethel at Blogworld wrote a couple of really interesting posts on the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and why it is important for us to commemorate that event today. She writes . . .

We know slavery was bad. We know it’s an indelible part of our history. But it’s over, and it has been in our country for almost two hundred years. So why should we commemorate Abolition, when it didn’t actually erase the institution of slavery or free the slaves?

The short answer is that it marks the beginning of a process of emancipation that involved all parties — the slaveowners as well as the slaves. The long answer is that Abolition created a culture that provided the foundations of the one in which we live today. If we begin with the question about who enslaved whom and when that ended and who ended it, we begin in the wrong place. We already know those answers, and we tend to use them to justify weaknesses and cast blame. The commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery, however, allows us to approach the institution in a different, and, it’s hoped, more constructive way.

Currently, we’re taught to consider the institution of slavery as an unrelieved victimhood, with the Bad White Oppressor and the Poor Black Oppressed — Simon Legree, for those of you who still remember Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Uncle Tom, Topsy, and company. But what we overlook is that the real institution was far more complicated. The slaves themselves struggled for their freedom from the moment of their capture, and their activity in that struggle for freedom contributed to importantly to the Abolition movement. The slave-owners, on the other hand, were not all greedy and cruel, and several engaged in the education, religious and otherwise, of their slaves. Not all people of colour were slaves, not all white people were slave-owners, and not all slave-owners were white; some, like the Fox after which Fox Hill took its name, belonged to the group of people known as Free Coloured People.

So we have to approach this bicentenary of Abolition in a spirit of openness. We need to understand the processes of emancipation that began with/led up to/culminated in the passage of the Abolition Legislation through the British Parliament in 1807, and to recognize that those processes must continue; for two hundred years later, we are still not entirely free.
Be sure to read the remainder of Bethel's reflections in her post On Abolition as well as her post On Commemorating Abolition.

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Planning to show Amazing Grace?

It appears that the National Cultural Development Commission has sent an inquiry to the management of Galleria Cinemas regarding their plans (or lack thereof) to show Amazing Grace in the Bahamas.

Read a copy of their letter here.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Festival of African Arts Commemorates Abolition

Below I've posted a copy of an article from the Nassau Guardian, which lists the various activities that the Festival for African Arts is planning for 2007 to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade in the Bahamas. Of immediate interest is the 'Celebrate Africa' Festival, scheduled for this Saturday the 24th from noon to midnight at the Southern Recreation Grounds.

Slave Trade

By NORMAN ROLLE, Guardian Features Writer

Great Britain was the last European country to engage in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the first to terminate it. The Slave Trade Abolition Bill was spearheaded by William Wilberforce, a born-again Christian and Prime Minister Pitt.

The Bill first moved in the House of Commons in 1804 was defeated but became law on March 25, 1807 which marks the bicentenary of the cessation of the slave trade. Emancipation, however, did not occur until 1834.

There is little that the 85 per cent of African slave descendants in The Bahamas have to celebrate about the nefarious slave trade, but a group known as the Festival of African Arts is using the occasion to bring attention to our African culture and heritage.

Jamaica MP Andrew Holness, puts the celebration in perspective: "The bicentenary commemoration offers us an opportunity to finally confront our history, grapple with our past, make the connections to the present and view the trajectory of our future.

"We have mostly tried to forget about slavery and the slave trade while we secretly retain the inferiorities that are a part of slave mentality. Let's use this opportunity to confront our history and use it as motivation for moving upwards because we are a mighty race."

The Festival of African Arts has planned a 10-month celebration of the artistic, folkloric and cultural expressions of the African Continent," says Pat Rahming, executive producer of the Festival 1807 Entertainment.

The Festival of African Arts is a non-profit Bahamian company headed by Dr Thaddeus McDonald, Dean of Academic Affairs at The College of the Bahamas. Its mission is to create a greater level of appreciation for the wealth and diversity of the African heritage in The Bahamas through a greater exposure to the cultural expressions of the African Continent.

The Festival begins, appropriately, with a 'Celebrate Africa' Festival on March 24, timed to coincide with the Bicentennial of the passage of the Act to Abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade, on the Southern Recreation Grounds beginning at noon and continuing until after midnight. African food, dance and customs will share the stage with the best Bahamian entertainment, culminating in a free concert to commemorate the event.

"This year we will set a record for murders in this country. The vast majority of those murders will be committed by young people...those young people have a problem. We give these fancy names as 'conflict resolution'...what that means is I can't get along with other people...this is because of a damaged self-image...psychgologists know it, but don't say...the damaged self-image is linked to have to have some idea of where you're feel valid. I feel that knowing your heritage and self-image would go a long way in reducing crime."

On April 28 a symposium will be held to discuss the influence of Africa on the development of Bahamian art at the National Art Gallery and on May 8, a symposium on religion - the relationship between African religion and European religion. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has arranged for governments of several African countries to send troupes to The Bahamas to give cultural performances and presentations.

"We are currently talking with South Africa about having a group from there. We hope to bring cultural groups from about 10 African countries during the course of the year, including the group from South Africa that recorded with Paul Simon.

Funds generated by the Festival will go toward a scholarship at The College of the Bahamas and a research mission to West Africa to investigate the relationship between Junkanoo and Africa.

The following programs and activities were submitted to The National Cultural Commission by Dr. Thaddeus McDonald, Christopher Curry and Jackson Burnside III for consideration:

  • Establish a Research Institute to foster knowledge and awareness of African History and Culture.

  • Establish a Journal of Slavery.

  • Conduct Annual Symposia linking The Bahamas to the wider diaspora, and hold regular meetings and lectures throughout the nation.

  • Agitate for a fuller curriculum on African History and Slavery in schools at all levels.

  • Publish regular Anthologies on Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

  • Establish Scholarships for persons wishing to study history relevant to The Bahamas.

  • Make History mandatory in the school curriculum.

  • Expand the resources of The Pompey Museum and other similar institutions throughout the archipelago.

  • The matter of the African slave trade as it relates to The Bahamas is a delicate topic that few are bold enough to bring to the fore for fear of being labeled Afrocentric or having attached to them some label. But slavery is a matter of history.


    During the 300-plus years that the Europeans engaged in the African Slave Trade 20 million Africans were packed into slave ships bound for the 'New World'; 10 million of them perished in the Middle Passage.

    The United Kingdom Parliament passed the Emancipation Act on Aug 1, 1834. It gave partial freedom to slaves in The Bahamas. Full freedom was to come four years later in 1838.

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    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Mitchell Speaks on Aboliton of the Slave Trade

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the bicentennial of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade is one of the important milestones being observed in the Bahamas this year. Since this coming Sunday March 25th is the day that the Slave Trade Act of 1807 was actually signed into law, I will attempt to spend the remainder of the week sharing items that help us to reflect on this important event. Today, I've posted the remarks delivered by the Hon. Fred Mitchell, MP for Fox Hill, to New Covenant Baptist Church on Sunday February 25, 2007.

    On Marking The Occasion Of The Abolition of The Transatlantic Slave Trade in the British Empire

    It is as usual an honour to be here to make this brief intervention on this subject that is of significance to the history and settlement of these islands. I want to thank Bishop Simeon Hall, my friend, for this kind invitation.

    Last evening, I met with representatives of the Rasta community who have decided for the first time to engage fully in the electoral process by registering and voting in the next general election. Our discussions turned to the question of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. I made the point that we are not celebrating this anniversary; we are observing or marking the occasion.

    The fact is that slavery was wrong, morally wrong. There is a requirement for an apology by all those who were officially involved in slavery even centuries after the fact, in the same way that the German government has had to make amends for their conduct during the second world war toward Jews.

    Millions of African peoples perished in the middle passage; the numbers exceed those who died in the Holocaust. Their names are not known and never will be. They must not be forgotten.

    I made the point about observance because there are many in the country who want to pretend that this never happened, and that we ought to in some kind of 21st century love fest forget about the past as if it did not exist. We cannot do that. Our history is our history; and we ought to be sure that the young know their history. We must also tell them, though, that history should not be used as an excuse for their failings but rather as a source of inspiration for their success.

    On 25th March 1807, the British Parliament passed an Act that would forbid the transportation of slaves from Africa to the new world. It came into effect in 1808 and once it did, the British Navy had the responsibility of enforcing it. This meant that vessels of countries that still carried slaves were subject to seizure and forfeiture by the navy on the high seas.

    Amongst those countries where slavery had not yet been abolished was the United States of America who did not abolish slavery until 1865 and in Brazil where slavery continued until 1888. Slavery itself was not abolished in the British Empire of which The Bahamas was a part until the year 1834.

    We in Fox Hill have organized a whole set of observances around that event since the time it took place in 1834, perhaps the only place in The Bahamas to do so on a wide scale. This year, I would like you all to come to Fox Hill to join us for the observances.

    Fox Hill owes its beginnings to some extent to the settlement of freed Africans who were set down by the British in what was then called New Guinea or the Creek Village, later named Fox Hill and then Sandilands Village.

    Here is what Michael Craton writes in his History of The Bahamas “After the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807, the Royal Navy maintained a special squadron to suppress the traffic. From 1830, slaves seized on the high seas were freed absolutely. The first such cargoes reached Nassau in September 1832, when 370 Negroes were settled on Highbourne Cay, 514 at Carmichael, six miles from Nassau, and 134 at Adelaide in the southwest of New Providence. In 1833, there was a serious drought and the Negroes at Highbourne Cay were brought back to New Providence and settled just ‘over the hill’ from Nassau, in an area already known as Grant’s Town after Governor Lewis Grant (1820-29).”

    Dr. Gail Saunders writes in her book Slavery In The Bahamas:

    “The arrival of Liberated Africans had a profound effect on the growth of the population of The Bahamas between 1808 and 1840… Most of the displaced Africans were condemned at Nassau at the Court of Vice Admiralty and between 1811 and 1832 over 1400 Africans had been put ashore under the protection of the crown.

    “On being landed in The Bahamas they were placed in the hands of the Chief Customs Officer, whose duty it was to bind them to suitable masters or mistresses, in order for them to learn a trade or handicraft, for periods not exceeding 14 years... In the 1830s, there were at least eight free black villages or settlements outside the town of Nassau. They were Grants Town and Bain Town just south of the city, Carmichael and Adelaide in the southwest, Delancey Town just west of Nassau, Gambier in the west and Creek Village (New Guinea and Fox Hill) in the east…

    “Fox Hill was named after Samuel Fox who arrived in New Providence in the 1820s and purchased property in the eastern district of New Providence. Fox Hill comprised a series of villages, for example, Congo Town, Nango Town, Joshua Town and Burnside Town. Congo and Joshua Town were probably settled by slaves or freed men who had been born in Africa. Congo and Nango Town probably took their names from the tribes that lived there.”

    When I attended the celebrations for the 137th anniversary of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Fox Hill, the history there says that their congregation formed out of Mt. Carey Baptist Church and arose in part because of differences between the Congos and Yorubas.

    The Yorubas came from West Africa and the Congos came from the Congo. Most British slaves came from West Africa and the Portuguese took their slaves from what is now the Congo and were transporting them to Brazil.

    It is said that after the abolition of the slave trade a slaver Congo slaves was captured by the British and set down in Fox Hill. They were looked down on by the Yorubas because the Congos could not speak proper English, having come later to The Bahamas and the English language. When the split took place over some doctrinal matters, the Congos moved to found St. Paul’s.

    Language is very interesting because as you know we have all been stripped of our African languages. I recall how the people of Barbados who migrated to Panama at the turn of the 20th century and stayed in Panama, even though they were born and raised in Panama and have not been to Barbados in their lives still speak English with a Barbadian accent, 100 years or more after the fact.

    You can tell then that language is a difficult thing to erase and yet you see how slavery was so dehumanizing that it wiped out all traces of the original languages that came with our forefathers.

    So I hope you see how the modern history of The Bahamas is influenced by what happened 200 years ago. We are still struggling with the meaning of this for our people, their self esteem, and their right to exist as human beings within their own skin and not suffer because of it. It is important that our children continue to know the story and continue to tell the story.

    This year the Government plans to mark special observances. I am hoping that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone which was founded by the British to accommodate freed Africans will come to The Bahamas and that we will agree on special measures for these observances.

    Ghana is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Independence this year and the Government hopes to send a delegation of civil society to represent us at those celebrations.

    There are to be seminars and research projects, and collaboration with our Caribbean neighbours to mark these matters.

    The Government of South Africa has asked The Bahamas Government to host the follow up regional conference on the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and we have agreed to do so as well.

    I thank you for allowing me to share these tidbits of history with you and hope that during this morning’s service you will continue to reflect on where we have come from. You can see how the hymn "We've Come This Far By Faith" resonates so well in the African experience in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade

    Over at Blogworld, Nicolette Bethel suggests that the upcoming elections here in the Bahamas have muffled public discussion of the bicentennial of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. Interestingly, many of the points she makes are similar to those my students raised when we got sidetracked into a discussion on this topic during last weekend's class session. Bethel observes:
    Perhaps this is why we aren’t discussing abolition and what it means for us. This should, of course, be a source of shame for us all. When the United Kingdom is making a big deal out of this year, and out of the anniversary that’s coming up on March 25, we’re strangely silent. Is it because people on the PLP are afraid to make too much out of it because of the long years of invoking slavery in election years (the running of Roots on ZNS, in 1977, 1982, and 1987, the references to Exodus) have rendered the concept of slavery impotent as a political tool? Is it because people in the FNM have rejected the concept of slavery because they believe that it alienates those people who are not the descendants of slaves?
    You can read the rest of Bethel's post here.

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    A Call for Cancellation of Haitian Debt

    I've just received the following from Haiti Reborn:

    For Immediate Release, 16 March 2007

    U.S. organizations call on IDB to immediately cancel Haiti’s debt

    When the Inter-American Development Bank meets this weekend (March 16-20) in Guatemala City, the agenda will include finalizing a proposal to cancel the debts of five countries: Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guyana, and Haiti. All but Haiti are poised to receive immediate cancellation of their debts. However, Haiti may be asked to wait three years or more to receive cancellation because the country has yet to complete the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

    "Haiti currently pays $56 million a year to service odious debts. A large portion is paid to the IDB – the creditor that makes the largest claim against Haiti. If Haiti has to wait until the end of fiscal year 2010 for cancellation, that is another $90-120 million just to the IDB – money that would be far better spent providing health and education services for the people of Haiti," said Tom Ricker, co-director of the Quixote Center’s Haiti Reborn program.

    "Haiti only has 25 doctors per 100,000 people, and the public sector is currently spending $10 per person on health services. With this level of support between now and 2010 another 100,000 children in Haiti will die before reaching 11 months of age, and another 6,000 women will die during childbirth. Canceling Haiti’s debt now could help prevent many of these tragedies," said Nicole Lee, director of the Transafrica Forum.

    "Half of Haiti’s debt – nearly 60 percent of the IDB debt – is "odious debt", or loans made to the Duvalier family or other dictatorships. The IFIs knew this "aid" was buying fur coats, financing death squads and propping up repressive regimes, but they kept it flowing. The IDB has an opportunity to make up for this unconscionable policy, and to support Haiti’s democratic government, by cancelling this odious debt," said Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

    In November of 2006 the IDB Board of Governors agreed to create a process for canceling the debts of five eligible impoverished countries. After a follow up meeting in Amsterdam in January, it was announced that $3.5 billion in debts would be cancelled. However, little has been said about the process, and what conditions if any would be attached to countries for receiving the cancellation.

    "It is egregious that Haiti must comply with harmful economic reforms to obtain debt cancellation from the IDB. This is why senior Members of the U.S. Congress introduced a resolution this week to immediately and completely cancel Haiti’s debt. When thousands of lives are literally at stake I don’t see how the IDB Board of Governors can do anything other than heed Congress’s call," added Tom Ricker.
    In addition, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to urge the IMF, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other multilateral financial institutions to cancel Haiti’s multilateral debts immediately and completely. The resolution also urges the Secretary of the Treasury to use the voice, vote and influence of the United States within these institutions to accomplish this important goal. You can read more about this proposal here.

    UPDATE: It appears that the Inter-American Development Bank has granted complete debt relief to Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guyana as well as partial debt relief for Haiti. The details on Haiti are as follows:
    Haiti, which is part of the International Monetary Fund's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, will be able to get rid of $20 million of its debt by 2009, and after that it can shed the entire $525 million.
    Based on this report it is not clear why Haiti was not granted immediate debt relief like the other four countries. Likewise, there was no indication as to whether or not the above timeline was contingent upon Haiti meeting certain conditions or requirements.


    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Mark Your Calendars!

    The next Bahamas Human Rights Network meeting is scheduled for Wednesday March 21 at 6:30 PM. It will be held at the Eugene Dupuch Law School Legal Aid Clinic, which is at the VB Munnings building, next to Kentucky Fried Chicken and opposite the College of the Bahamas. Please feel free to invite others who might be interested in participating.

    The next meeting of the Bahamas Historical Society is scheduled for Thursday March 22nd at 6:00pm. Michael Pateman will be speaking on "Reconstructing Lucayan Lifeways: Diet, Health, Nutrition, Lifestyle and Mortuary Varibility through Skeletal Analysis." Pateman works at the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation of the Bahamas (AMMC), and the subject he will be presenting on is the research topic for his thesis. You can read more about Pateman's archaelogical research here.

    If you thought that was it for the month of March, think again. On Friday March 30th at 6:00pm, Peter J. Roberts will be speaking to the Bahamas Historical Society on “Genetic Genealogy and the Results of the Bahamas DNA Project.” The Bahamas DNA Project was launched in 2004 to support genealogical research and Mr. Roberts, a Bahamian professor at Georgia State University, is the project administrator. Early results of the project show that sharing the same surname is not a guarantee of being related.

    The Bahamas Historical Society is located at the corners of Shirley Street and Elizabeth Avenue.


    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    The Sin of Omission: Reflections on Censorship and Christian Values

    Like Nicolette Bethel over at Blogworld, I am disappointed that the film Amazing Grace is not being shown in the Bahamas. Bethel offers a number of possible reasons as to why it has not shown, including Galleria Cinemas' monopoly over the local commercial theaters or the possibility that the Bahamas Plays and Films Control Board has decided to prohibit the screening of the film. [UPDATE: Bethel has just updated her blog to indicate that Amazing Grace was released only in the U.S. on Feb 23rd, not worldwide as she had originally stated. The film is slated for release in the UK on Mar 23rd, leaving open the possibility that it may still come to the Bahamas. That being said, I believe the major thrust of my argument below is still valid.]

    Bethel along with other Bahamian scholars and journalists (see here, here, here, here, and here) have publicly questioned the seemingly inconsistent criteria that the Bahamas Plays and Films Control Board has utilized to determine which films can and cannot be shown in the Bahamas. Likewise, they have expressed concerns about the undue influence of the Bahamas Christian Council and other clergy on the outcome of the Board's decisions. For the most part, I am in agreement with their conclusions.

    But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is good public policy to regulate what types of films the public should see and, further, that such regulation should be done on the basis of Christian values (keeping in mind that the precise definition of "Christian values" is a hotly debated issue itself). This, of course, is a position that many--but not all--religious Bahamians would strongly agree with. By taking such a position, we would not be surprised to see strong opposition to films that present morally controversial or theologically heretical (not to mention historically inaccurate) content as was the case in last year's debate over whether or not Brokeback Mountain and the Da Vinci Code should be allowed to show. (Interestingly, the former was banned while the latter--which was considered by many to be a deliberate and scathing attack against Christianity--was permitted to screen). Conversely, we would expect to see strong public support for films that powerfully communicate Christian values and heritage.

    But in practice, this rarely happens. Opposition to films that do not measure up to Christian values tends to be selective and we can all readily identify numerous films, apart from the Da Vinci Code, that have been shown despite their dismal failure to meet this one simple criterion. On the other hand, high-profile vocal support for explicitly Christian movies--not to mention secular movies that are consistent with Christian values--has been deafeningly silent. It is this latter point--the lack of support for good Christian movies--that I wish to elaborate on here. Consider, for example, the following five films that—to the best of my knowledge—have never been screened in a Bahamian theater and, most likely, remain unknown to the vast majority of pundits who have eagerly sought to ban other movies deemed to be of "no value to the Bahamian public."

    Beyond the Gates of Splendor (2002) – This documentary narrates one of the most compelling missionary stories of the twentieth century, showing how five young American missionaries (Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully) were speared to death in 1956 while trying to evangelize the Waodani tribe in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. But the story doesn’t end there. A few years later, Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the men, and Rachel Saint, the sister of another, went to live with the Waodani and successfully evangelized their tribe. Decades later, Steve Saint, the son of one of the slain missionaries was reconciled with the Waodani man who killed his father and, as a result, moved his family to Ecuador to live with the Waodani and continue the ministry started by his aunt Rachel.

    Mart Green, the producer of Beyond the Gates, also made a feature film version of the same story, which was released as End of the Spear (2006). The film is not overtly evangelistic but instead strongly emphasizes the themes of truth, love, and forgiveness. Christianity Today reports that the cinematography was even of sufficiently high quality to receive “measured praise from the mainstream press,” which is rare for a Christian film. Both of these films won awards at the Heartland Film Festival and Beyond the Gates also won an award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival (see here and here). Naturally, one would expect that both of these films should be of great interest in a country that is making increasingly significant contributions to the global church.

    Luther (2003) – This film explores the life of Martin Luther, the sixteenth century priest who spearheaded the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s legacy is not just limited to the history of the western church. His life and work significantly impacted other areas of European thought, politics, economics, and society, making him a major figure in the history of western civilization, apart from his contributions to the development of Christianity. Even though the Bahamas touts its identity as a Christian nation and, in fact, is predominantly Protestant, I am routinely surprised by the disproportionately large number of students in my church history classes who—when we get to our unit on the Reformation—get confused because they think that I’m talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. instead of Martin Luther. This highly acclaimed award-winning film, of course, does an outstanding job of bringing this important history to a more general audience.

    The Second Chance (2006) – Unlike the above movies, which are all based on actual historical events, this award-winning film is purely fictitious. It is about two American pastors—one from a white middle-class suburban mega-church and the other from a poor multi-ethnic inner city congregation—and the conflicts that result when they are forced to work together. It’s a film that demonstrates how Christianity—at its best—is about overcoming our prejudices of race and class and breaking down the barriers between the streets and our sanctuaries. While the film strongly challenges Christians to recommit themselves to these goals, it refuses to downplay the difficulties that one will face when trying to live up to such a vision. Given the growing disconnect between church and society, this is a message that we all need to hear.

    Amazing Grace (2006) – Currently playing in theaters around the world, this film shows how William Wilberforce, a member of the British parliament, and John Newton, a former slave trader turned Anglican clergyman, and others teamed up to bring about the end of the Atlantic slave trade in the British empire (1807) and, eventually, slavery itself (1834). Given that this year is the observance of the bicentennial of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade and that the Bahamas was one of the primary beneficiaries of this legislation, this seems like an especially timely film as we seek to reflect on what this legacy means for us today.

    I have shown (or intend to show) all of the above films in the theology classes that I teach at Atlantic College. And with the exception of Amazing Grace (which, for obvious reasons, I have yet to see), I can personally vouch that these are all films that embody important Christian values and/or document important events in our Christian heritage. Undoubtedly, the astute reader will readily identify additional films that achieve these objectives as well but—for reasons unbeknownst to us—have never been screened in the Bahamas.

    If our genuine desire is to promote Christian values and heritage, then perhaps we need to consider how we might go about that task in a more productive way. Instead of seeking to ban movies that are inconsistent with Christian values, perhaps our time and energy would be better spent advocating for films that do reflect our values. In other words, perhaps the Gospel message is best served by clearly articulating the positive things that Christianity is about rather than defining ourselves by the negative things that we are not.

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    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Citizenship for Bahamian-born Haitians

    One of the biggest challenges facing the Bahamian-born children of Haitian immigrants is that they are not automatically granted citizenship on the basis of the fact that they were born in the Bahamas. Instead, they are only eligible to apply for Bahamian citizenship between their eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays and, if they miss this narrow window of opportunity, they are no longer eligible for citizenship on the basis of their birth in the Bahamas.

    This policy has been problematic for a number of reasons:

    First, many Haitian-Bahamians miss the deadline because they are not aware of their legal rights or they simply do not know how to go about filing the necessary paperwork properly. Since their parents often have minimal education and, sometimes, little communication ability in English, they do not receive much help from home when the time arrives to begin the application process.

    Second, even when Haitian-Bahamian young people submit the properly completed paperwork at the correct time, there is no guarantee that their application will be processed in a timely fashion, that it if processed it will be approved, or that it will even be processed at all.

    Third, inability to obtain Bahamian citizenship makes it difficult, if not impossible, for promising Haitian-Bahamian young people to pursue a college education. Without citizenship, they are charged foreign tuition rates instead of resident tuition rates at the College of the Bahamas and they are unable to obtain a passport to pursue scholarship opportunities overseas.

    Finally, the current citizenship laws--in effect since the time of Bahamian independence in 1973--are a radical departure from those that were in effect under British colonial rule or are presently in effect in neighboring countries (e.g., the Dominican Republic and the United States) that must deal with large numbers of children born to Haitian immigrants.

    With these things in mind, I am pleased to read in the Nassau Guardian that a commission appointed by the Bahamian parliament has recommended changes in the Bahamian constitution that will insure that Bahamian-born children of immigrant parents (of any nationality) will automatically be granted Bahamian citizenship if they apply at the age of eighteen and meet a ten-year residency requirement. While I would prefer to see that children of immigrants be awarded citizenship automatically on the basis of their birth in the Bahamas (especially if their parents are legally residing in the Bahamas at the time), these changes--if implemented--will be an important step in the right direction towards making children of immigrants first-class citizens of the Bahamas with all of the legal rights and privileges that such citizenship entails.


    Friday, March 09, 2007

    Research Edge Forum -- March 16, 2007

    Topic: "Bahamian Youth: The Untapped Resource"

    Presenters: Members of the Coalition for Education Reform, comprising representatives of major business and labour organisations

    Date: Friday, March 16, 12 noon to 1:30pm

    Venue: Lecture Theatre, Culinary & Hospitality Management Institute Thompson Boulevard

    Presentations are based on a 22-page report entitled "Bahamian Youth: The Untapped Resource," which focuses on the unacceptable level of achievement among school leavers. the research concludes that failure to address the education crisis will produce grave consequences for this country's social stability and economic competitiveness. However, there is cause for optimism: while the solution is complex, it is possible to begin to address the issues. The panel will present 14 strategies.

    The lecture is open to the public and free of charge.

    Click here for further information.


    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Solidarity with the Women of Haiti

    Today is International Women's Day. In that spirit, the letter that I've posted below has been circulated by Jubilee South in Argentina as a collective call for solidarity with the women of Haiti.

    This statement of solidarity will be issued today, International Women's Day, and will also be presented to the Inter-American Development Bank during their official meetings in Guatemala City in mid March (16-20). The IDB is considering cancellation of its claims to Haiti's debts, as well as Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guyana, and Honduras. Though, I've learned that Haiti's portion of this cancellation may be delayed.

    Solidarity with the Women of Haiti

    On this March 8, we issue a special call for solidarity with the women of Haiti who are suffering a situation of extreme physical, psychic and economic violence as a result of the military occupation and financial plunder of their country.

    Since mid 2004, Haiti has suffered foreign military intervention through the United Nations Stabilization Mission – MINUSTAH- that supposedly was charged with the task of reducing violence and guaranteeing the protection of human rights and security of the population. After two years, the Mission has clearly failed in its objectives. The supposed peace-keeping troops have been converted into an occupation force which violates the rights of the population, especially those of women and girls.

    News of cases of rape, abuse of women, boys and girls, and sex trafficking has multiplied. Even the United Nations itself has to recognize that its peace-keeping troops have violated the rights of women and girls. In the last two years, 189 soldiers, police, and civilian employees were sanctioned for these crimes. In the first 10 months of 2006, 63% of the incidents of reproachable conduct on the part of these troops are related to acts of sexual aggression. To mention just two examples, this was the case when an 11 year old girl was raped by soldiers in front of the Presidential Palace, and when a boy, less than 14 years of age, was raped at a UN naval base.

    This situation of physical and psychological violence comes on top of economic violence. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the continent. 80% of the population lives below the poverty line and four million people do not have enough to eat. The continual payment of external debt is financially bleeding the country. In 2005, over $80 million dollars was designated for payment of interest and debt service that continues to be charged by the International Financial Institutions. The illegitimacy of this debt is amply demonstrated. 45% of the debt that is owed today was contracted during the Duvalier family dictatorship. The deadly consequences of debt payment fall principally on women and children who are deprived of their most basic rights.

    For these reasons, we demand total and unconditional cancellation of the external debt and that these resources be designated for health, education and life for the people of Haiti. We should accompany the struggle for just alternatives, demanding restitution and reparation for the looting of the country over the years, and demonstrating that women are the principle creditors of this enormous debt: the financial, social, cultural and gender equity debt accumulated throughout patriarchal colonization and continuing under capitalist exploitation today.

    We commit ourselves to demand that our governments withdraw troops from Haiti and implement policies of true solidarity, respecting the sovereignty, self-determination and human rights of the people of Haiti.

    For the right to LIFE for the women of Haiti!
    Stop violence and sexual abuse!
    Stop the military and economic occupation!
    Total and unconditional cancellation of external debt!
    MINUSTAH Troops out of Haiti!

    [UPDATE: You are invited to read and widely disseminate this declaration as part of International Women's Day activities. The list of initial endorsements as well as Spanish and Haitian Creole versions of this letter are available from Tom Ricker at Haiti Reborn. Please send additional signatures of support to the mailbox of Jubilee South/Americas' Gender Area.]

    More information about the sexual exploitation of Haitian women by UN Peacekeeping Forces is available here.

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    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Jamaican Baptist nominated for top BWA post

    [Photo: Neville Callam speaking at the BWA Centenary Congress in Birmingham, England.]

    Baptist World Alliance nominates new General Secretary

    [UPDATE (03/08): Ethics Daily notes that if Callam is elected at the BWA General Council meeting in July, he would become the first non-white general secretary of the 102-year-old worldwide fellowship of Baptist conventions and unions.]

    [See the original story here.] Neville Callam, a Jamaican pastor, theologian, author, media manager and educator, has been nominated to succeed Denton Lotz as General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Lotz retires in December 2007.

    Callam has had a long history of involvement in the BWA beginning in 1985. He served the international body as vice president from 2000 to 2005, and sits on its influential Implementation Task Force, which has the mandate to make recommended structural and other changes to the BWA. In addition, he has been a member of the Executive Committee and the General Council.

    The Harvard graduate and Christian Ethics specialist has also served the BWA on its Academic and Theological Education Workgroup, Christian Ethics Commission, Division of Evangelism and Education Executive Committee, Division of Study and Research Executive Committee and the Membership Committee, among other committees, commissions and workgroups.

    In the Caribbean, he served as president of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) between 1985 and 1987, and from 2000 to 2002. He has held every senior position in the Jamaican convention, including vice president, general treasurer, and acting general secretary, and has given unbroken service on its Executive Committee since 1980. He is a former vice president of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, one of six continental federations that make up the BWA.

    Callam holds several senior positions in media in Jamaica. He is chairman of the board of management and former general manager of The Breath of Change, a Christian radio station he founded, and is chairman of the board of the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica, a public statutory organization. He is also a founding director of the National Religious Media Company of Jamaica, the largest religious radio and television broadcasting company in the country. Callam formerly chaired the Media Commission of the JBU which is responsible for the denomination’s radio and publication ministries.

    A sought-after lecturer and teacher, Callam has taught at the United Theological College of the West Indies, Jamaica Theological Seminary, the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, and as visiting lecturer at the Barbados Baptist College. He sits on the University Council of Jamaica, the major accreditation body for colleges and universities on the island.

    The author of five books has written for several journals and has made presentations at numerous conferences, workshops, symposia and fora internationally, including in Spain, Mexico, Ireland, France, Thailand, South Africa, Malaysia, Germany, and other countries. He was one of the leading presenters at the BWA Centenary Congress held in Birmingham, England, in 2005.

    In speaking of his commitment to the Christian gospel, Callam said, “Living for Jesus is what my life is about. My calling is to serve the cause of Christ. I have had reason to be very thankful for my Baptist heritage, which I celebrate.”

    Callam has been an ordained Baptist pastor since 1977 and currently serves as senior pastor of the Tarrant Baptist Church in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. He holds degrees from the University of the West Indies and Harvard Divinity School. He and wife, Dulcie, are the parents of two adult children.

    Callam’s name is forwarded for the position of General Secretary after a long and exhaustive international search conducted by the Search Committee, chaired by John Sundquist. The committee consists of representatives from all six continental federations of the BWA, in addition to the core members of the Personnel Committee.

    The process began with an invitation extended at the July 2006 General Council meeting in Mexico City for Baptists all over the world to submit nominations. After the time period for nominations closed October 31, 2006, the search committee engaged in a series of meetings and interviews that culminated with the recommendation of Neville Callam.

    Search committee chairman Sundquist said that “In reviewing the documents and references and after the interviews, it is clear that Neville Callam is the kind of ecclesiastical and Christian statesman that we can have pride in.

    "It is wonderful to meet someone whose biblical and theological grounding is not only deep, but whose life is such that his relationship with Christ and commitment to the church is so obvious."

    The vote for General Secretary will take place during the BWA General Council meeting in Accra, Ghana, in July of this year.


    Quote of the Week

    "Actions speak louder than words, and prophetic actions speak louder than prophetic words."

    Virgilio Elizondo, author of Galilean Journey and founding director of the Mexican-American Cultural Center

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    Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    19th Annual Haitian Studies Association Conference

    Haitian Studies Association - Call for Papers 2007

    19th Annual Conference
    Weaving Transnational Ties: Partnering for Haiti
    Call for Papers Deadline: June 15, 2007

    Conference Date: October 4-6
    Conference Location:
    Lynn University
    Boca Raton, Florida

    The Haitian Studies Association (HSA) is pleased to invite you to its 19th Annual Conference to be held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida on October 4-6, 2007. The theme of the conference is "Weaving Transnational Ties: Partnering for Haiti." We invite you to consider participating at the conference by chairing a panel, presenting a paper, or attending. The 19th Annual Conference committee welcomes proposals from authors, scholars, teachers, librarians, archivists, activists, scientists, artists and the general public.

    The conference seeks to explore the ways in which Haitians at home and abroad create spaces for transnational connections, collaborations, and forms of exchange that enhance and challenge the social, political, cultural, and economic development of Haiti and Haitian diaspora communities. Please visit our website for more information regarding the conference and membership to the organization. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in October at the conference. Feel free to contact HSA at


    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Global Perspectives Launched

    Mayra Giovanetti--a missionary colleague who serves in Chile--and I have launched a new blog titled Global Perspectives that seeks to conduct "a theological conversation about culture, mission, and world events." This blog is co-authored by us along with several of our missionary colleagues. Right now there are seven of us; five have already signed up and two more should be joining us soon. So if you are interested in learning what we have to say about missions and world events from our various vantage points around the globe, be sure to stop by and learn more about us and check out the first post. More posts from the various contributors will be forthcoming over the next several weeks.


    Friday, March 02, 2007

    Baptist Heritage Tour of the Bahamas

    Want to learn more about Baptist witness in the Caribbean?

    Then consider joining this exciting mission tour May 14-23, 2007. We will explore the dynamic heritage of Baptist witness in the Bahamas amidst the historical experience of slavery and colonialism and contemporary challenges of globalization. The group will visit significant historical and cultural sites, dialogue with missionaries, pastors, and local historians, and connect with a vital Baptist ministry. Judson Press author Alfred Pugh will lead this trip alongside IM missionary Daniel Schweissing. The cost of $1350 includes airfare from Miami to Nassau. Call 800-222-3872 ext. 2366, email at, or check our website for more details.

    This mission tour is part of the Discovery Teams program of International Ministries. If you are a pastor participating on a Discovery Team for the first time, $500 scholarships are available on a first come, first serve basis.

    [Photo: Mission Baptist Church and its pastor Dr. R.E. Cooper, Sr. were major supporters of the Bahamian struggle for Black Majority Rule, which was achieved forty years ago on January 10, 1967.]


    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    A Review of Three Months with Revelation

    Justo L. González, Three Months with Revelation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004. 184 pp. Paperback, $11.00. ISBN 0-687-08868-2

    Unlike many of the current popular writings on Revelation, this new devotional guide is not just another outline of end-times events. Instead, Justo González--a Cuban American theologian--approaches Revelation in light of the oppressive context of the Roman Empire in which it was written, arguing that it sought to comfort and bring hope to persecuted churches in Asia Minor. Consequently, its primary significance for today is that it serves as a call to obedience amidst hardship and persecution. Though, it is often misread as a message of terror by those who enjoy economic privilege while living in spiritual complacency.

    First published as Tres Meses en la Escuela de Patmos (Abingdon, 1997), this translation now makes an important perspective from Latino/a biblical interpretation accessible to English-speaking readers. Having previously authored two other books on Revelation (see here and here) as well as several additional devotional titles in his Three Months series, González is eminently qualified to share his expertise on Revelation in an easy-to-read devotional format that is appropriate for either individual or group study.

    Three Months proceeds through the book of Revelation sequentially, dividing the book into thirteen separate weeks that are in turn subdivided into seven daily readings. Each reading offers an analysis of the daily text that is organized according to the inductive approach (see-judge-act) typical of liberation theology. In order to facilitate the book’s use by study groups, the final reading for each week is double in length and includes a section on recommended group activities.

    Typical of González’ previous work in biblical interpretation, Three Months’ strength lies in its sensitivity to the context of empire that shaped the life of the early church as well as its ability to draw lessons from that context for today’s churches. This becomes especially apparent by the second week of the study which discusses the seven letters to the churches (Rev. 2-3). Two of these churches—Philadelphia and Laodicea—are at opposite ends of the spiritual and economic continuums. Philadelphia was economically poor and spiritually rich in contrast to Laodicea, which was economically rich and spiritually poor. Noting that this reflects a general tendency for poor, persecuted churches to be faithful to God and wealthy, unpersecuted churches to be unfaithful, González challenges his readers to consider how their own comfort and complacency keeps them from faithfulness and what they might do to more closely follow the example of Philadelphia rather than Laodicea. In subsequent weeks, González develops this emphasis on faithfulness further, showing how it goes beyond mere personal morality to include one’s social responsibility and political commitments as well. Needless to say, such analysis will probably be uncomfortable for readers whose interests are closely aligned with those of today’s empire.

    A weakness of Three Months is that, in order to spread the material out evenly over a three month period, the daily studies often use artificially short snippets of text where two or three days worth of reading might more comfortably be combined into one. This results in a pace of study that sometimes creeps along much too slowly, making it difficult for readers to keep the big picture in mind. While such a problem is not unexpected in a devotional guide, it is a nuisance that detracts from an otherwise high quality work.

    I normally tend to avoid using devotional guides, finding most to be superficial and unchallenging. But González was different, offering a deep theological analysis of scripture while simultaneously sharing it in a way that can be easily understood and applied. More importantly, his words are a challenge to all Christian believers who wish to heed Revelation’s call to obedience amidst the oppression of empire.

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